Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Johnny Damon ready for all of his responsibilities

PORT CHARLOTTE — LF Johnny Damon is willing to be a salesman for the Rays organization, especially given the attendance clauses in his contract, as well as a sage and a mentor to some of his younger teammates.

More important, the Rays need him to be a key part of their lineup.

The Orlando-area resident reported to camp Friday morning saying he was eager to take on all facets of his new gig, already feeling at home with what he considers his home team.

"I feel like I've been their teammate for a while, and it's only been a couple weeks. These guys have come to accept me and embrace me, and it's my job to go out there and play the game that I know how," Damon said.

"I feel like everywhere I've gone, people have looked up to me the way that I've played, the leadership qualities that I do bring. It was more evident in Detroit last year. There were so many young kids, they picked my brain a lot, and I gave them a lot of knowledge, and I'm still cool with that.

"But I also want to play and succeed. This was a great team before Manny (Ramirez) and I got here, and with the additions of a few more guys here, it could be interesting."

Manager Joe Maddon is excited about everything Damon, 37, brings.

"I just think he's the kind of guy that really fits in well quickly, and I'm really looking forward to having him here," Maddon said. "He's exactly what we needed: that kind of a player with that kind of experience and veteranship, and that could still play at a very high level."

Maddon said he still hadn't decided if Damon would hit leadoff or elsewhere and probably wouldn't until at least partway through the exhibition season.

HELLICKSON UPDATE: RHP Jeremy Hellickson was kept off the field and will likely skip today's scheduled bullpen session due to what the team is now calling a "mild strain" of his right hamstring.

Maddon said the move with the scheduled No. 5 starter was precautionary after he first felt tightness while stretching before Thursday's workout.

"I'm not concerned as of right now," Maddon said. "It sounds as though he's going to be fine, but we've just got to be very careful right now."

HOME BOY: 1B Casey Kotchman had an easy drive from his St. Petersburg-area home to Port Charlotte to join the early reporters.

It's heading back to St. Petersburg with the team at the end of the spring that will be more of a challenge as he tries to win a roster spot after signing a minor-league deal.

Kotchman said he hadn't thought much about the competition with projected starter Dan Johnson, felt good about getting his batting stroke "cleaned up" after hitting .217 with Seattle last season and is eager for the opportunity.

"I'm just pressing toward the future, and I'm excited what this year will bring," he said.

Kotchman, who was dropped by the Mariners after the season, said he had offers from several teams but thought the Rays were the best option: "I just wanted to pick the best fit, or what I felt was the best fit."

EXTRA HAND: INF/OF Joe Inglett was signed to a minor-league deal and will report to camp in the next few days. Inglett, 32, is a left-handed hitter who has played second base, third base and all three outfield spots (and pitched once) during parts of five seasons in the majors with the Indians, Jays and, most recently, Brewers. He also played first base and shortstop in the minors. With Inglett, the Rays have 62 players on the camp roster.

MISCELLANY: RHP Juan Cruz, delayed by visa issues in his native Dominican Republic, is expected this weekend. … The other four position players who had yet to report in advance of Monday's first full-squad workout were: INF/OF Ben Zobrist, INF Elliot Johnson and nonroster INFs Daniel Mayora and Ray Olmedo.

Marc Topkin can be reached at

Johnny Damon, taking batting practice during his first workout, says he wants to play well and be a veteran leader.


Johnny Damon, taking batting practice during his first workout, says he wants to play well and be a veteran leader.

Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Johnny Damon ready for all of his responsibilities 02/18/11 [Last modified: Friday, February 18, 2011 10:24pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Friday's Rays-Orioles game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb hates to hear how he "battled through" or "grinded out" a start rather than just dominated, but that's kind of what he did Friday, allowing nine hits and a walk and being charged with two wild pitches but only three runs in earning his 12th win.

  2. Lightning's Steven Stamkos looks close to top form in first game since November

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Lightning captain Steven Stamkos was curious how he would feel — and perform — in Friday's exhibition against Nashville, his first game since mid-November knee surgery.

    The Lightning’s Alex Killorn, left, makes his preseason debut and has an assist in a 3-1 win against the Predators at Amalie Arena.
  3. Rays journal: Rays tie franchise home run record

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — A major flaw in the Rays offense this season — and thus a major reason for their inconsistent play and losing record — has been too much reliance on the home run.

    Wilson Ramos points after hitting a grand slam during the second inning, putting the Rays up 4-0.
  4. Ww's Odessabeach makes run at Husker Magic stakes final


    ST. PETERSBURG — When Hurricane Irma blew through Florida earlier this month, Ww's Odessabeach remained in her comfort zone.

  5. Steven Souza Jr. vindicating big trade for Rays

    The Heater

    BALTIMORE — There was a time when the three-team, 11-player transaction the Rays orchestrated to get Steven Souza Jr. from the Nationals looked liked a bad deal.

    The Rays’ Steven Souza Jr. has 30 home runs while improving his defense and baserunning.